Mary Margaret Oliver
Email Newsletter
January 7, 2020



                    HAPPY NEW YEAR!
This beautiful picture below of Echeconnee Creek in Bibb County was taken by Charles Seabrook, and I follow him on Facebook enjoying his travels through Georgia and birding highlights. Thank you Charles!  The seagull and beach pictures were taken by me on Tybee Beach today, and I am grateful for  the beauty of our state.  HAPPY NEW YEAR!

I look forward to the 2020 Session, which begins next Monday, January 13, and hope you will join me via my newsletter, Facebook, Twitter,  live streaming of our Sessions, and  your best option, visiting  your State Capitol in person.  I want to hear from you! I ask that you answer my survey questions to cast your ballot and views on pending votes  and issues  before the House. Please review the results of your answers below to my survey questions from my last newsletter, which surprised me. Thank you!

DeKalb Ethics Commission Update


Rep. Matthew Wilson and I have prepared a bill to create a new appointment process for members of the DeKalb Ethics Commission that is required by the  recent Georgia Supreme Court decision.  Our proposal, based on the voters' 62% rejection of SB 7 on the November referendum, is a "clean" bill only addressing the appointment process and eliminating a referendum.  If the DeKalb House and Senate delegations approve, the Ethics Commission could be appointed and back in business by Valentines Day.  The AJC and Brambleman have offered helpful discussions of the current status of the November 5th referendum vote and the proposed bills. See articles below

Legislative efforts to change DeKalb ethics board begin anew

DeKalb ethics update: Several lawmakers out of step with voters




Vista Grove and DeKalb Annexation Updates


I am contacted frequently by constituents for and against legislation
to allow a referendum for voters to create the new city of Vista Grove.  The Carl Vincent Institute, at the direction of a specially appointed Commission, is developing a financial analysis of the impact of all the new cities created in DeKalb. This financial report will be published later this month and will offer helpful information to voters, and was discussed in recent AJC articles (links below). Actions  by Brookhaven, Chamblee, and Tucker to annex additional areas of unincorporated DeKalb that are located in the proposed Vista Grove new city map are complicating various proposals.  The process and choices for voters are difficult, and hard to predict.  If you have suggestions or questions, or  want to offer your opinion please contact me. 
Brookhaven's footprint grows as neighborhood of 2,000 joins city
APS, DeKalb annexation deal could pay for six school health clinics


Budget Preview and Medicaid Expansion


Amendments to the 2020 state budget and the adoption of the 2021 budget will  be the most important work of the 2020 Session, and likely be the most controversial.  Governor Kemp's direction in August to cut the current 2020 budget by 4%, with some agencies or functions exempted, has disrupted current state functions and there is obvious uncertainty among state employees. Are these budget cuts necessary given the reserves and surpluses in the bank?  And, what is the true estimated cost of whatever Medicaid expansion the Governor has proposed and the federal CMS approves?  I have been a member of the Appropriations Committee for many years, and this year's decisions are likely to be very contentious.  I have reported in previous newsletters about work relating to expansion of mental health services for young children and the expansion of juvenile court jurisdiction to  include 17 year olds, and these reforms also require budget increases.  Will there be no budget  enhancements for improved services in the 2021 state budget or another year with no salary increases for employees? The Governor will reveal his proposed budget during the first week of the Session, and the debates will be begin in earnest. Do you believe Georgia cannot afford current or improved services?



Coal Ash Removal


The Public Service Commission approved last week a Georgia Power rate increase which in part will pay for the closing of coal fire plants across the state, including a cleanup of coal ash ponds that have received the the coal ash residue.  The state EPD must approve the process of closing the coal ash ponds, and environmental advocates argue that all ponds must be lined to protect  underground water sources.   This issue will receive additional attention this year and, hopefully result in greater environmental policies for water protection. 


The Democratic Debate at Tyler Perry Studios
New Survey Question

This session, we will likely consider a reduction in state income tax.  In 2019, the state income tax was reduced from 6% to 5.75%. The current reserves of the state revenue are over 2.7 billion dollars, and the Governor has reduced by Executive Order state spending by 4%, with certain agency exemptions.

Do you support or oppose the General Assembly voting to reduce the state income tax from 5.75% to 5.5%? To respond,  click here.

November Survey Results
I asked you survey questions on several issues. Here are your results:
1. a. Would you vote for a referendum to allow Georgians to bet on sporting events? 

56.7% No
41.4% Yes

Written responses included*:

Please let's not encourage gambling. It takes advantage of the poor and appeals to the lowest instincts, all in the name of money.

I believe it would bring in additional state income.

 1.  b. How would you vote if given the chance? 

70.4% No
29.5% Yes

Written responses included*:

I don't see this as a choice to put before voters, any more than such inane proposals as letting people vote on whether to have public health measures, such as non-smoking ordinances, or motorcycle helmet requirements, or vaccinations. Let's concentrate on electing people who can consider evidence, and act on it in the common interest. 

[M]aybe it's good to have such a referendum. The situation probably needs to be well thought out so that such legislation is appropriate and adequate for the situation.

2. Would you vote to allow felons upon release from prison to vote? 

86.8% Yes
11.8% No 
Written responses included*:

By paying the legal requirement for their transgression, they've regained their status as citizens. To prevent them from voting is to continue exacting a penalty they've already paid.

Once a person has "paid his/her debt" to society, s/he should have all rights restored. There is so much injustice already in our criminal "justice" system that this restoration of rights is the least we can do to help the felon get back some dignity.

They served their time, paid their "debt" to society. Further punishment is punitive & makes them less likely to feel they have a stake in the community. If they can vote, they'll feel they are part of the community and have responsibilities.

Felons need to earn their right to vote again...most will be on some kind of supervised probation....let us see how their rehabilitation is progressing.

It would depend on what crime the felon committed.

If...a felon has been released from prison for at least 10 years [unfortunately about half find their way BACK] & has led a lawful life then perhaps he/she is fit to have their right to vote returned.

*The responses reported were chosen by staff as exemplifying common themes from both points of view.
What's Happening?


Wednesday, January 8, 2:00 pm: "Political Rewind" with Bill Nigut on 88.5FM, GPB Atlanta. Listen in!

January 13, 12:30 to 2:00 pm: 2020 Forecast for Children Issues in the 2020 Session, Fireplace Room, sponsored  by VOICES.

January 14, 1:00 pm: Meeting with Georgia Tech Legislative Group, CLOB Office.

January 15, 11:30 am: Talking with Decatur 3rd Grade visitors to the Capitol about what it's like to be a legislator.

January 21, 9:00-10:45 am: Speaking to Emory LaVista Parent Council Peachtree Gateway Council on legislative issues that may impact DeKalb students.

January 22, 6:30 pm: Speaking at Glenn Memorial United Methodist Church Legislative Update.

January 28, 2:45 pm: Speaking to the Georgia Credit Union on Grassroots Day, Capitol Building Room 341.

With George Li
With George Li, T echnology Director for Commission on Justice for Children, at meeting of Supreme Court of Georgia Committee on Justice for Children.

Henry had a great holiday! We hope you did. 
New Staff

This session, Carroll Sterne, who has served so well for seven years as my Chief of Staff, will step back. Those of you who knew and worked with Carroll will miss him as much as I will. But I've added two new staffers. They will be available in my office at the Coverdell Office Building and their contact information is below. Please stop by and meet them.

Sydney Cleland, Chief of Staff

A graduate of the University of Georgia School of Law, Sydney practiced environmental law at Alston & Bird and Waste Management, Inc. Following her legal career, she was a teacher at The Paideia School, from which she retired. She now pursues her volunteer interests through political activity, the arts, and All Saints' Episcopal Church. 

Olivia Buckner, Legislative Aide
Olivia is a recent honors graduate of Mercer University where she held many leadership roles and has a history of experience working at the Capitol alongside Representative Pat Gardner HD 57 and Representative Vance Smith HD 133. She has worked on several issues such as the Stop Taxation On Menstrual Products (Georgia STOMP) and various environmental issues. 

If you would like to reach Sydney or Olivia, please stop by or call the Legislative Office at (404) 656-0265. 

Contact and Thanks
As always, please contact me any time with your questions or comments. Visit my website at the link below and  follow me on Facebook and Twitter by clicking the links below. 

Also, please consider how you might want to volunteer and join me next year in the 2020 Session--would your child like to page, would you like to follow a particular committee or bill for me?   Would you like to visit with me as my guest on the House floor? 

I look forward to working with you again during the  2020 Georgia General Assembly.  THANK YOU FOR YOUR INTEREST!
Mary Margaret
Law Office (404) 377-0485
Legislative Office (404) 656-0265
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